Mario Iribarren, or Super Mario, as he’s affectionately known around Potts Point is a local hero.
The 76-year-old long-time resident has spent 20 years keeping numerous Potts Point buildings and apartments spick and span. You’ll always see Super Mario with a huge smile on his face and a willingness to help. I spoke to him about his life in the local area.
You’re a local legend in Potts Point but where did you grow up?
I was born in Santiago, Chile. My grandfather was from the Basque country in Spain, and my grandmother was French. Both of my parents were born in Chile, so I’m a second generation Chilean and a first generation Australian.
When did you come to Australia?
It was 1973. There was massive political unrest in Chile. It was evident that General Pinochet’s rule was going to cause significant problems. Many professional people such as doctors and engineers were leaving the country. I didn’t have those skills. However, I had a Yugoslavian friend who had family in Australia. His cousin’s boyfriend worked in an employment agency. She convinced him to write a letter saying I had a job waiting for me on arrival, so I got a visa. I consider myself very lucky.
What were your first impressions of Sydney?
It was paradise! I lived on Darlinghurst Road. People think it was a crazy place back then, but I loved the area. I got a job on the production line at Leyland Motors before working in the warehouse at Bay Books. Then I worked at the former Gaso Hotel, which was next to the El Alamein Fountain in Kings Cross during the Eighties. Now that was a crazy time with the police corruption and the criminals running the Cross. I’d always worked as a cleaner at night as I had to send money back home to Chile. I started my cleaning business 20 years ago.
What do you love about Potts Point?
I’ve lived in my apartment in Potts Point for over 30 years now. I’ve watched a whole generation grow up and then have their own kids. I’ve never had a car and have always walked everywhere. I’ve always loved the community in Potts Point as it’s such a melting pot of people; rich and poor, from many different countries and all walks of life. I try to look out the older people who live in small flats and who are on pensions. I will do their shopping for them or help them with their laundry. I like helping people. When I first moved to Sydney and didn’t know anybody, so I used to volunteer at St Vincent’s Hospital. I believe to be a part of a community then you need to contribute to it.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m out of the door at 5.30am and finish at 6 pm. I have two hardworking Nepalese staff. We look after 20 buildings doing the building maintenance, cleaning and taking the bins out. I’ve also got lots of private clients, whose homes I clean. I’ve never advertised and always found my clients by word of mouth.
What are your favourite places to visit in Potts Point?
I go to Gypsy for my coffee in the morning because it’s such a friendly place. Tropicana has excellent fish and chips and Caesar Salad. I spend time with my Nepalese flatmates Anil & Sharon, who also cook for me. They live with me for free because I know what’s like to be a new immigrant in Australia.
You are 76-years-of-age Mario, do you ever think of retiring?
I love being busy. Sometimes I think if I retire, I will die. I’m still very fit. Although my body sometimes gets tired. I like to relax on the weekend by having a siesta in the afternoons. I love my job though. I’m not going to quit anytime soon, although I may get more staff. I’ll never leave Potts Point. It’s my home.